We don’t all have the same wedding season. Some of us in those warm climates (aka Arizona) are just picking back up with weddings. Cause seriously no one wants to get married in the Arizona heat. At least I don’t think they do. The southern hemisphere is just starting their wedding season. But most of us up in dem northern parts of the globe are finishing. Occasionally we have the random winter wedding. As we start to slow down there’s that relief, yes, time to relax a little. And then shock settles in. OH MY GOSH what do I do now? What am I supposed to do? How do I make money? Panic.
Here’s the deal. From hear on out I’m calling it the “off-season” <— take note of the quotation marks. We own businesses, we’re not off for a season In fact this is when I feel like it’s time to go to WORK! As photographers we thrive behind the camera. Photographing a wedding, engagement, portrait sessions, whatever it may be is the easier part of our jobs. The fun part. I feel like I’m having more fun than working all summer. Yes we have to edit, do emails, a little planning, order product, etc. Or maybe you even outsource all or part of that. Summer we’re crazy busy, shooting every weekend, maybe traveling, shooting during the week, trying to take time off each week for yourself and family that often we push the business side well… to the side. October we walk into our office full of chaos. Unorganized papers, pens, products, everything EVERWHERE. The “off-season” is when when business work gets done. I actually look forward to this time of year as I know how important it is.
I stumbled into wedding photography. A dear friend saw photos I took of my daughter (which were for fun) and asked if I would do her wedding. Then the friend of a family member asked. Then another friend asked. Then another friend of a family member and there was my first few weddings. All of this happened in July of 2010. I had so much fun and wanted to keep going with it. I didn’t know a thing about business and honestly didn’t realize how much the business side mattered. If I could take photos and do it well I thought I’d be fine. But there is oh-so-much-more to it. I started a website, a blog, took pictures of anyone who would let me, compared myself to photographers in my area and put a starting price I thought was competitive. Let me tell you right now, that’s not the right way. Whatsoever. But it’s how it happened. I booked 4 weddings. I was stoked! I actually booked weddings for people I didn’t know! I went off to WPPI March of 2011 and learned SO much. However I chose to attend classes more on photography techniques, and less on actually running business. And after leaving WPPI I made one of my biggest mistakes as a business owner. Through discussions at WPPI someone told me to go home and change my business to be like theirs and gave me a starting price, packaging, etc. They were successful, why couldn’t I. I did everything they said. And I FAILED!!!! I didn’t think for myself, for my clients, my family. It was no longer about fulfilling me and more about making money. Which I didn’t. I booked 1 wedding between March and November. I didn’t understand. November 1st of last year I realized something needed to change. What I was doing clearly wasn’t working. I began to focus on making goals for my business, recognizing who my ideal client is, what they want, what they need, what I need to sustain a business, actually putting together a true business, and adding a wow factor for the year. It was still a work in progress but on November 12th I launched a new site, began to focus more on what I want for that year, launched new pricing and packaging and a new way of delivering it. And had a goal of booking 4 more weddings before the end of the year which would give me 5 total. 1 more wedding the year before. And, an overall goal of 10 weddings for 2012. And I actually focused on how to market myself. I’m so glad I didn’t take that season off. Cause that “off-season” COMPLETELY flipped my business. This summer I traveled ALOT, shot weddings in dream locations, learned a ton about myself, pushed my limits, attended the best business workshop ever, began specializing my business, and passed my goal of 10 weddings and photographed 12. I actually happen to be stoked for the “off-season” the changes I made last year catapulted me, what can happen from the work I put into my business this “off-season?”
What are your plans for the “off-season?” Here are some ideas of things to tackle!
- Goals. Business and personal. Did you make your goals you set for last year? If not, why? How can you fix that for 2013? Set goals for next year. Be clear and specific. The more detailed you are the easier they are achieve. But don’t just stop with goals and defining them, build a strategy to actually achieve them.
- Portfolio Update. That’s right update those images on your site, heck update your whole site. Make sure your vision is cohesive for next year. Showcase what you want to attract. Brides want what they see. Remember every word matters. Pick your words wisely. While updating understand WHY you are updating it and what it should do or mean to a prospective client.
- Booking Process. It’s booking season. Recognize where you did well this last year and where you didn’t. How could you make this process easier and better for your client AND you. From meeting a client, what happens then, pricing, how pricing is delivered, what comes after pricing, delivery and process of contracts and invoicing, etc. And it’s booking season, make sure you’re still making money during booking season and budgeting for just those couple of months that may not get bookings. You shouldn’t be going half a year without making money!
- Marketing Plan. How do you plan to market your business? Where you will put your efforts? Social media, advertising, word of mouth, etc. How will you get people to talk about you? Are you using words in business that you’d like others to use to refer you? Build a budget for this and where you want your money to go or not go.
- Workflow. As the summer goes on we begin to realize so many things we’d like to change in our workflow, but being in the middle of shooting and super busy it’s hard to make alot of those changes. Now is the time to figure them out, start incorporating them or just determining what would work better for the next year. For me this is going to include finding the right companies for some outsourcing!
- Products & Samples. Take a little time to go through your samples and products. Start updating your samples to include your best work, the work that will speak to your ideal clients as they touch and view the sample. Determine what products you’ll offer this year, or which ones you no longer want to offer. When they will be delivered, how they’ll be delivered, packaging, etc.
- Organization. Clean up from the crazy wedding season. Organize your office and work, get back on track!
- Take Care of Vendors. Make sure all of the vendors from this season were taken care of. Provide them with some images of their amazing work. Take them for coffee. Become friends. Consider gifting them albums or products of their work to share with their clients
- Date your clients. Get together with them for no good reason. They’ve invested in you and its 9 months til their wedding. Invest in them. Build a relationship with them. They’ll market for you
- Location Hunt. At the beginning of the season I go out and look for new locations but as the season gets busier I often find myself at the same spots. Take an afternoon, grab a coffee and drive, enjoy the scenery.
- Personal Projects. Keep posting up work. Photograph your friends and family. Or work together with those vendors that you are becoming friends with! Take this time to push your limits. Try something new. Go all out!
- Fix and Better. Really pull apart your business. Recognize breaking points and FIX THEM. At the same time recognize where you’ve excelled and how you can better those points. And do it. Don’t just think, actually act upon it.
- Relax! You have your weekends back. Enjoy them. Treat yourself. And treat your family. You deserve it!
Shooting is not all there is to this business. To truly succeed we need to better our business. Don’t take the season off. Take the weekends off and get back to work! You and your business will be better for it
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